Photo sourced from nurseriesonline
If you would like to try growing your own fruit such as peaches, apples, blackberries and raspberries now this is the time to get into nurseries and check out their bare-rooted stock.
Even in the smallest of backyards there is room for several fruit trees and some berries. Most fruit varieties can be purchased as a dwarf or mini versions that do not take up as much room as their full-sized counterparts and can be easily grown in pots if you are renting or have a balcony or courtyard.
A few things to think about before purchasing:
Most fruiting plants need a fertile well drained soil. If this does not describe what you have in your backyard, think about raised beds.
For pots always buy the best quality potting mix you can afford and be prepared to water and fertilise regularly.
Most fruiting trees will need at least 6 hours sunlight a day. However, there are some fruiting plants such as Blueberry, Raspberry, Cranberry, Strawberry, Hazelnut and Macadamia that will grow and produce in partial shade.
What type of fruit do you like to eat?
There is no point in growing fruit that you or your family will not eat.
I put in Kiwi fruit once- one male and one female- after about two years we were getting buckets of fruit but no one in the family really liked eating them so they were mainly given away. Waste of money, space, and time as they were very vigorous, and it was a lot of work pruning them back each year and then picking all the fruit. They are no longer part of my fruit production.
What will grow in your climate?
Do some research, ask your local nursery, talk to neighbour, walk around you neighbourhood and see what is growing well, visit your local community garden. These are all great ways of obtaining the knowledge required to firstly select and then maintain your fruit producing plants.
Don’t forget to ask if the varieties you are looking at need a specific pollinator.
A little bit of local knowledge can prevent the heart ache of seeing plants die or not perform well and can save you a lot of money and energy needed to purchase and maintain unsuitable plants.
From here make a list which will be made up of the fruit your family like to eat and what grows well in your local climate.
Consider some of these ideas when choosing fruit trees for your backyard
- Plant deciduous trees on your northern boundary for winter sun and summer shade
- Plant a north facing layered food forest system
- Plant varieties grown of dwarf root stock ie citrus grown on trifoliate root stock will always be about 2/3 of their normal size
- Dwarf or Miniature fruit trees such as nectazee and Pixzee peach only get to about 1.5 meter tall. You can also get dwarf citrus, mango, and avocado
- Columnar apples such as ballerina are a great narrow growing variety ideal for along fence lines
- Multi-grafted trees with several varieties of apple or peach on one plant great where a different pollinator is needed
- Espalier against fences or walls great for citrus and pome fruits. Stone fruits are a bit too vigorous for this method of production
- Hedge citrus or avocado for a privacy screen or wind break. Hedging is a great way to ensure the amount of sunlight you get into your backyard is not diminished.
- Growing in containers
- Many varieties of fruiting plants are extremely attractive and can become a feature in your yard or paved area.
- Container growing will allow you to grow plants that may require moving to get more sun or be protected from frosts.
- Most fruit bearing trees can be containerised particularly if they are dwarf varieties or grown on dwarf root stock.
Here are some of my favourites fruiting plants for pots –citrus (smaller varieties like Finger lime, Myer lemon, Tahitian lime, Mandarin, and cumquats) dwarf peaches, nectarine and apples, olives, pomegranates, blueberries and strawberries.
- Just remember the larger the container the better and make sure it has adequate drainage holes. Elevate the pot so it is not sitting on the soil or sand laid pavers. If it is the roots will grow out the drainage holes into the soil/sand beneath and eventually expand to block the drainage hole, eventually killing the plant. Use the best quality potting mix you can afford and be diligent about watering and fertilising on a regular basis and re-pot every 3 to 5 years
Buying your plants
Most fruit trees that can be purchased in nurseries and hardware outlets are grafted. Plants are grafted to obtain production of a particular variety, that would not grow true to type if grown from seed and usually cannot be grow from cuttings. It is also a means of getting plants that will produce earlier in their life and to produce plants that are resistant to pest and disease.
Grafting is a process of taking a shoot or bud (scion) of a selected plant variety and joining it to the stem of another living tree, which will then become the selected varieties root stock.
Grafted trees are more expensive than seedling, but you do get a known variety that allows you to purchase plants that are proven to do well in your area.
Purchasing your plants
Deciduous trees and cane berries are best purchased and planted out in winter when they are dormant. It is also more economical if they can be purchased Bare rooted, that is dug up and sold without soil or a pot to contain it.
Evergreen trees, such as citrus, are purchased potted or bagged in soil and are best planted out in autumn. This is when the soil is still warm so root growth will occur, but the cool air temperature prevents leaf growth allowing the plants to become established before spring and summer arrives.
Always choose healthy young plants with a good branch structure and no sign of pest and disease.
Ensure that you have selected your planting site and that all necessary soil improvement has occurred before purchasing. This allows plants to be planted out as soon as possible.
Always water newly planted trees in well as soon as planted.
Apply a 10cm layer of Mulch in a 30 cm circle around the base of the plants ensuring that is kept away from the stem.
Several applications of a seaweed-based tonic, such as seasol, will help the plant become established.
For more information:
Check out this video on how to plant bare rooted trees.
Also check out my blog on Growing organic blueberries http://www.myproductivebackyard.com.au/how-to-grow-2/growing-organic-blueberries/
Next blog how to prune your backyard fruit tress